Chris Daniels Profile
Chris when did you first develop an interest in our industry and what was your first film project?
I've always been fascinated by how films were made, I remember well asking my dad a lot of annoying questions along the lines of "how do you think they did THAT shot??" from films like Jurassic Park. Explaining a digital brontosaurus to a nine year old is no easy task! My cousin had a hi-8 camera that we used to make some truly awful backyard films, the kind you force your parents to watch once and they don't let you forget about for ten years.
What did you do when you decide to further your career?
I was very interested in technology and computers through high school, and we were lucky to have a couple of computers with Creative Suite 3 installed. Being the kind of student I was I
pirated Um.. borrowed the software for use at home and set about learning After Effects and Premiere in my spare time - this was right at the moment that resources like Video Copilot and Philip Bloom were becoming available online, so it was a really easy and interesting way to do some self-motivated learning about filmmaking. My best friend at the time picked up a Panasonic GH-2 camera, which you could hack to create some great high-bitrate video, and we set about making fun videos that were slightly less terrible than before! After high school I bummed around university attempting an accounting degree for a year, before running away to find some clients who might pay me to do what I used to do just for fun.
What has been your most interesting project?
That's easy, it's been commissioning a full scale QTake playback rig for use on long form productions in South Australia. QTake is a computerised playback system that organises playback media by shot, scene and take, and allows instant playback of any shot from throughout a production. It was invented in Europe about ten years ago, and quickly became the gold standard video assist system around the world. The rig that I am currently running is the result of an entire year of research into the technology, and a LOT of time spent annoying the American QTake operators to try and steal their knowledge!
On set, some of the crew of The Hunting
Tell us some of that challenges you faced getting that system up and running.
Funding was a big challenge, not only to bring the equipment to South Australia from all over the world, but also to effectively shut down my business for two or three months so that I could comprehensively test everything and learn all of the ins and outs I needed to know. As with all tech, the answer is inevitably "I just need one more piece!". One of the biggest hurdles of the entire system is the managed Wi-Fi network I use to connect the QTake system to on-set iPads and iPhones for playback. I'm not a network engineer, and running and maintaining enterprise level wireless infrastructure is a lot trickier than I originally thought. I'd say I have a bit more sympathy for the NBN now, but that would be a lie! Everything had to be in working order for Escape from Pretoria, shot earlier this year by Geoffrey Hall ACS, and I'm glad to say it worked a treat.
Your standing as an industry expert is growing rapidly, are building and operating digital systems like this where you think your future lies?
I grew up in a completely digital world - I remember first experiencing AOL internet when I was about 5. Everything in the film industry is becoming more and more digitised, from lights with inbuilt Rosco filters controlled by wireless DMX, to cameras connected to monitors that can wirelessly send and receive camera control commands, picture, and lens control all over the one box. We want to make films and TV faster and faster, with less and less compromise in quality, so we need the digital systems that enable us to work smarter. If you don't believe me, try taking a WCU-4 away from a 1st AC! I think that not too far in the future, we will be seeing dedicated on-set wireless infrastructure that centralises all of the control protocols for lights, cameras, playback, maybe even sound, (probably not makeup...). After all, this technology is already in use and all using the 2.4 or 5 GHz spectrum, so for better or worse it has to work together!
What’s project are you involved in now?
I'm currently working on Stateless with the amazing Bonnie Elliot ACS, this show is going to be beautiful! (Picture is of Chris operating his QTake on the set of Stateless.)
What’s your favourite film or TV show and person?
A quick and dirty list of the favourites: Chicago, Westworld, The Producers (2005), Sherlock, Across the Universe, Schmackos (thank the geniuses at Anifex for that one), San Francisco, and my Dad!
Please tell us something about yourself that not many people know.
I used to be an actor - for five years after finishing high school I performed in two or three local musical theatre productions a year. Maybe I will again one day!
Thanks Chris, it’s amazing the different paths we take getting into the film industry.